Amplifying favorable comments made earlier this year by Gov. Jerry Brown regarding future oil and natural gas development in California, the head of the state department responsible for overseeing drilling said recently that Brown supports the use of hydraulic fracturing (fracking).

Speaking at a regional meeting of the American Chemical Society in San Francisco last week, Department of Conservation Director Mark Nechodom said Brown is supportive of the controversial drilling practice.

At another recent meeting in the San Francisco Bay area, as a participant on a Climate One panel on energy, the economy and environment, Nechodom said that in California’s historical use of fracturing “we have no evidence that there is any environmental damage or hazard to human health, no evidence.” The state has not had separate rules for fracking, but his department has now drafted some (see Shale Daily, Nov. 30, 2012). There have not been any cases of groundwater contamination by fracking in California, he said.

“Fracking is actually one of many thousands of different industrial processes in which we use incredibly dangerous chemicals and we regulate the use of those incredibly dangerous chemicals through disclosure processes,” Nechodom said. He referenced new state law (SB 4) and draft rules from the state’s Division of Oil, Gas and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) that call for mandatory industry disclosure of chemicals used in fracking.

“Most people don’t know where their milk comes from; most of them don’t know where their gasoline comes from. I think it’s terribly important, and fracking happens to be the fulcrum point right now by which a lot of people are learning way more than they ever expected to know about how oil and gas is produced in California or elsewhere.”

When Brown signed SB 4, he made it clear that he wants to fine-tune the law next year, and he wants Nechodom’s state agency to be closely involved in interpreting and implementing the fracking rules (see Shale Daily, Sept. 24). The legislation “establishes strong environmental protections and transparency requirements for hydraulic fracturing,” according to a Brown spokesman.

Brown has said previously “that going forward, there is a need for hydraulic fracturing-specific regulations to ensure environmental protection, and the Department of Conservation is developing those now,” a DOGGR spokesperson told NGI’s Shale Daily.

Brown and Nechodom have said that questions about the development of California’s fossil fuel deposits need to be answered “based on science, common sense and a deliberative process that listens to people, but also takes advantage of the great opportunities we have in the state.”